Thinking Out Loud

July 31, 2010

Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name

Filed under: ministry — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:43 am

This is the first of several occasional posts written in her early blogging days by my wife , who is, in many respects, the better writer in the family.   This originally appeared online in December of 2006:

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where George announces that he is going to tell a girl that he loves her. He’s never said this to anyone before and it’s a big step.

Jerry asks him whether he is sure of the “I love you return”. “Because if you don’t get that return, that’s a big matzoh ball hanging out there.”

I’ve been thinking lately that the church has gotten very practiced at saying, “I love you.” We put on community fun days, fill shoe boxes with toys, sing carols to the seniors at Christmas, rent billboards, start radio stations, make TV shows, buy our own broadcast satellites, write books, publish books, put scripture in greeting cards, find creative (sometimes sneaky) ways to “share the gospel”, preach the sermon first, then feed the hungry. We invite and invite and invite. We re-engineer our Sunday services to “meet the needs of seekers”, then put together very cool websites to let everybody know that we are a “different kind of church”– Google that phrase sometime; it’s hilarious — which often means the preacher wears jeans and the coffee is in the middle of the service, instead of after.

But for all that, we aren’t getting the “I love you return.”

People aren’t saying it back. Instead, in answer to all of our efforts, we get an awkward silence (at best) or a sneering challenge. And a sense that maybe they’d rather we stopped saying it.

As a character on The New Adventures of the Old Christine observed recently, “People who go to church only like other people who go to church.”

And maybe that’s the problem. We can convince ourselves that we “love the lost” but we haven’t convinced them that we like them.

I was in a conversation lately with a man who I’m really coming to respect who works on the frontlines between ‘church’ and ‘world’. He has been involved in two initiatives recently. One is a chapel service which he says he really enjoys and is energized by and that’s what he expected to happen. The other, a doors open meal, has taken him by surprise. Every evening, he works on serving the meal and sits with the diners to talk and listen to their stories of blood sugar levels and bowling scores and, as much as he values the chapel service, this is the one that’s capturing his heart. He finds a comfort level there that he didn’t expect and I say that’s because he’s getting the “I love you return”.

The Church needs to rediscover what it means to be human in the world. As much as I love the Noomas and the H2Os and the big worship gatherings and time spent with other believers, we have to recognize that it isn’t invitations to videos and big events and holy huddles that will change the world.

I’m increasingly convinced that we won’t accomplish much until we can convince people that we like them.

- Ruth Wilkinson, 12/05/06

July 30, 2010

Jesus to Return on 5.21.11 — Colorado Bus Bench Ads

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:29 pm

Be sure to read the May 18th update below…

They’re nice looking ads.   Buying space on the bus benches in Colorado Springs probably doesn’t come cheap, either.  (Try $1,200 for the period from now through October.)   Especially for a 31-year old woman who is unemployed.   The theme is “Save the Date.”   (It’s a Saturday, if you’ve got plans…)

Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins is happy the discussion is happening, but calls it “folly” to choose a date, since Jesus himself knew “neither the day nor the hour.”   (Though we are instructed to know “the times and the seasons.”)

Watch the CNN video report here.   Or check the website, WeCanKnow.com

What do you do with people who are willing to spend their own money for something they believe in so passionately?    The woman in the story compares herself to Noah, who was derided by his contemporaries when he began to build an ark.   What do you do when there probably will be some positive spin-offs in individual lives, as people contemplate the return of Christ or discuss it with friends?

But then, on the other hand, what do you do with the negative publicity in the [most probable] event that life continues as normal into the day the follows?

For all the lessons we’ve learned from date-setters — the book 88 Reasons Why Jesus is Returning in 1988 comes to mind — why do people keep doing this?

With files from the Colorado Springs Gazette.


May 18th update...

Okay, so over 100 people showed up here today. For this blog, that’s a lot of traffic.  So what if it’s true?  What if the world as we know it were to end on Saturday?

Better yet, what if you’re standing at the gate of heaven and God (or St. Peter!) is standing there saying, “Why should I let you in?”

If your answer is because you went to church, or lived a good life, or never stole or murdered, or gave money to the poor; then you’ve missed it.  That’s “religion,” where standing before God is measured by what you “do.”  But the only acceptable answer is that admittance to heaven is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Only his blood can satisfy a holy God.  In other words it’s not based on “do,” but based on “done.”  It’s been done.  You simply have to tell God, through prayer, that you recognize the need for forgiveness for those areas where you missed the mark, or standard, of his holiness, and want to be included, or covered, in what Jesus has already done.

Then you can have the assurance that you don’t have to worry about whatever happens on May 21st…

Click here to learn more.


7:00 PM (EDT), Saturday May 21st:  Here’s my take on how the day went!

July 29, 2010

For Those Who Have Suffered a Loss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

Lisa Elliott is a mother of four, closing in on the first anniversary of her son Ben’s passing away due to cancer.     Her writings on Facebook (group name: The Ben Ripple) would — and I believe someday will — fill a book.

Ode to Joy

This past few weeks and as we draw closer to August 19 when it will be one year since Ben changed addresses David and I have been incredibly sad. This past Sunday in particular, for no specific reason, was extremely sad and emotional for me. It wasn’t my typical “tidal wave” of emotion that hit me. Rather, it was more like a “tsunami” and it took me under for most of the day.

But for those of you who are worried that I’ve lost my joy – have no fear. I find her every Sunday at church! In fact, she saves me a seat in the back row and remains with me until the last person has evacuated. Joy has been a gift to me. Let me describe her to you:

Joy understands the pain of losing someone you love. (Joy lost her father 14 years ago this past Sunday.)

Joy told me on Sunday that some days it’s easier to just be numb because to feel is to be in pain. (I thought that was very profound.)

Joy also knows that God can only heal pain when we allow ourselves to feel it.

Joy is soft-spoken and a woman of few words, but her presence assures me that no words can reach into the deep places of my heart that are meant for God alone.

Joy gives me the time and space I need to meet God in my pain.

Joy stands aside and doesn’t interfere with what God is doing in the deep inner recesses of my heart.

Joy doesn’t try to fix me. Joy has no words of advice for me. Joy just listens.  She fully realizes that the kind of healing I need, God alone can give.

Joy is okay with my pain.

Joy knows full well that sometimes there are just no words to describe my pain.

Joy lets me be real about my raw feelings and doesn’t leave my side just because I’m having a bad day.

Joy reminds me that although the pain never fully goes away, it will get easier to deal with in time.


Joy assures me that eventually I will remember happy memories of Ben with a smile on my face and not just a tear in my eye.

Joy demonstrates to me that life can go on, making new memories and learning new things about God as I do.

Joy rejoices with me and my small baby-step victories.

Joy has told me that it’s okay to want to be alone to rest, recover and take the necessary time to heal.

Joy has warned me to be real about my pain and not try to conceal it.

Joy celebrates the ways that God is using my pain to reach others and sees the potential of the “ripple effect” in and through my life.

Joy allows me to worship through my tears.

Joy sings alongside me and my pain in a beautiful harmony.

Joy lets me be sad when I’m with her and has shown me firsthand that joy and pain can truly co-exist.

Joy sounds an awful lot like another joy I know; the joy of the Lord. Yes, I have grown to love the person Joy but she would be the first one to remind me that the joy of the Lord that is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11).

This is my “Ode to Joy”

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20).

July 28, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Quite honestly, I don’t know of another Christian blog that contains as many blogroll links as this one.

There’s a rule in Christian blogging that goes something like, “By their links ye shall know them.”   If you tried to evaluate this blog on that basis you’d be really confused.

Out of about 300 or so that I visit weekly, the ones that are posted here — some regularly and a few that rotate on and off — represent a rather eclectic mix of ages, geographical locations, readership size and doctrinal preferences. (Can you find the Quaker blog in the list?)

Some of them I endorse wholeheartedly, while others contain elements which are a source of potential embarrassment.   If they seem to drift too far from their original focus, I pull them from the list, but there are those who find their way back as well.   Some are dropped because they just don’t post often enough.

One thing I want to do more of in future involves finding blogs which are either just starting out, or have never attracted strong numbers and include them in the blogroll or the Wednesday Link List.   If you have a Christianity-focused blog you’d like to promote; this is a great week to put your link in the comments section.  If you are an e-mail subscriber, here’s the list you don’t usually get to see on the blog.

Regular links return next week.

Oh, Oh, The Places You’ll Go

ADDED THIS WEEK:  Devotional blog 300 Words a Day.

VIDEO LINK OF THE WEEK:  Reflections on the Ground Zero Mosque uploaded two months ago by Acts 17 Apologetics.  A rather amazing thesis, worth the 7 minutes.

“… BUT I FEEL SO RIPPED OFF, CAN’T YOU COME UP WITH A SINGLE NEW LINK?”  Okay, but there’s a lot of reading here.   Josh at the blog Enoch Route compares the notion of  “the sinner’s prayer” to a prayer that you pray before becoming a Muslim.


July 27, 2010

28/28/28 – Remembering Keith Green



“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!!” — Keith Green

I was standing in the dining room of a summer camp when the two guys whose job it was to monitor the morning news and do a morning sports report told me, “a gospel singer was killed in a plane crash.”   Not just any gospel singer as it turned out.   One of the best.

In February 1965, [at age 12] with forty original songs already written by him, Green and his father Harvey signed a five-year contract with Decca Records, with Harvey as business manager. The first song released on disc was The Way I Used to Be in May 1965 …which he had earlier composed and published before signing on with Decca. Upon publication of this song, Green became the youngest person ever to sign with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)

Keith had a Jewish heritage and raised in Christian Science. He grew up reading the New Testament and called the mixture “an odd combination” that left him open minded but deeply unsatisfied. ~ Wikipedia

Keith considered all of the spiritual possibilities out there and wrote them on a list for investigation.   He put Christianity at the end of the list because, “it couldn’t possibly be that.”   The Wikipedia article sums up his life:

Beyond his music, which shook the Christian world and recording industry, Green is best known for his strong devotion to Christian evangelism and challenging others to the same.

I’ll let blogger Dennis Mansfield continue:

The name, Keith Green, may not mean anything to you.

A memorial to him would, therefore seem like a goofy thing to do. “Memorialize WHO?” you might say.

Keith’s life is worthy of a quick read.  His death is worthy of a long study…at least the after-effects of his entering into eternity…

…I loved his fierce determinism.  He was a no bull man of God. And he would, I am told, COMPLETELY upset evangelical leaders for their fakery. My friend from years ago, Bob Probert, told me of how Keith upset leaders of Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard. Many people across America just DID NOT like Keith.

And he did not seem to care.

That last sentence says more than you think. Keith answered to a different boss.

“I repent of ever having recorded one single song, and ever having performed one concert, if my music, and more importantly, my life has not provoked you into Godly jealousy or to sell out more completely to Jesus!” -Keith Green-

Blogger Melissa Griffin picks up the story,

Keith Green, with his powerful voice, outstanding musical talent, and unquenchable passion for the Lord, inspired countless droves of listeners to give up everything for the unsurpassing joy of knowing Jesus Christ. He followed Jesus for 7 years, released 5 albums in 6 years, and saw thousands come to the Lord through his stirring, yet short-lived ministry. After 28 years of life, Keith unexpectedly departed this world to enter the presence of His Savior. That was 28 years ago.

28 years ago, at age 28, on the 28th day of July.

In a day when believers seem to be trying to please both the world and the Lord (which is an impossible thing), when people are far more concerned about offending their friends than offending God, there is only one answer…Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him!” — Keith Green

Nilson Sousa, Jr. is only twenty-something.   Too young to have been around when Keith’s music was sold in Christian bookstores, or later when it wasn’t sold in Christian bookstores because Keith was giving it all away for whatever price listeners could afford.    But a twenty-something offers a fresh perspective:

He is one of my heroes, probably the biggest one of 20 century.

Is that possible? To have bones of a dead prophet calling forth a generation of dead Christians? Yes, It is.

I was blessed to be part of the technical crew the day Keith was a guest on Canada’s national daily Christian television show.   I pushed the production team hard to just give Keith a block of time and they allowed him to have more than 20 minutes uninterrupted, a rarity for that program.  A quick-thinking floor manager held up a sign with the phone number for the show’s counseling center.

The show ended at 11:00 AM; at 3:00 PM calls were still coming in as people responded to Keith’s message about the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, at 7:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, (6:30 Central) there is a free, live web event remembering Keith Green taking place at www.keithgreen.com which I hope you can spread the news about.   Find out more at this 3 1/2 minute video invitation.

Either copy and paste the permalink for this article or just copy and paste the above paragraph [or this and the above one] into an e-mail and send it to any and all you think might be open or interested in hearing more about one of the founders of both today’s contemporary Christian music and the subsequent modern worship movement which followed.

YouTube audio links for those of you who missed the Keith Green era include: The worship song, There is a Redeemer; and the more up-tempo You Put This Love In My Heart.   Co-written with Randy Stonehill here’s a link for Love Broke Through, popularized by Phil Keaggy.

July 26, 2010

As the Celebrity Pages Turn

Filed under: issues, media — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:43 am

Well maybe. Maybe not.

On the last day of our vacation, the hotel where we were staying just outside of Ottawa offered me a free copy of The Saturday [Toronto] Star.   As is my habit, I tucked it away to read in detail when we got back home, which I did late that night.

On page three was the story of Benny Hinn and Paula White with which many of you are already familiar; though the picture — showing them holding hands — made the story almost unnecessary.  [Though the article tried to press the Toronto angle of Benny's early ministry in the area, it was inaccurate on a few points.]

This morning, commuters boarded mass transit trains in many North American cities and picked up one of the many commuter newspapers available free.   Chances are, up to 20% of the page count was taken by celebrity news.    This is what people want to read about.    The program Entertainment Tonight once was an interesting course in entertainment media, the visual “how it’s done” manual on all things related to movies, music, television, and stage.   Instead, it gave birth to a host of television programs which try to feed the insatiable desire for more knowledge of who is bedding down with whom.

Most of the time however, the news originates in Hollywood, not the Bible Belt.   The Benny and Paula story — they were seen together on the streets of Rome –  really looked no different than countless others, but we need to recognize that on some level, both of them are part of the superstar culture.

How did we get there?

For starters, here are some obvious reasons:

  • the rise of mega-churches, which suddenly made certain pastors significant nationally, and others less so;
  • the established past history of certain pastors or evangelists with respect to moral failure and the media feeding frenzy that these events are now certain to bring;
  • the outrageously excessive income and/or lifestyle of certain Christian “stars;”
  • the desire of certain Christian authors and artists to see their books or music “cross over” into the mainstream market; and,
  • our obsession with celebrity.

We created this mess ourselves, somewhat.  We conformed to the world.   We wanted our alternative Christian culture to be just as glitzy as theirs and we worshiped at the feet of anybody with a big church, a TV show or a best-selling book or CD.

Of course, both parties have issued denials that anything untoward is happening.   Is it just me, or are both denials the work of the same copywriter?

A great day for Movie-of-the-Week screenwriters and producers.

A sad day for the Kingdom of God.

My advice to Benny and/or Paula?  It’s peaked.  The season is over.   Shut it down.   All of it.   The television ministry.   The crusades.   The books.   Pay the staff a decent severance.   The TV contracts you can’t get out of, give the airtime to another ministry.    The arena contracts you can’t get out of, give to another [type of] evangelist, or even a Christian band.   Retire somewhere nobody can find you.

And Benny, take the Nehru jackets to a local thrift shop.

Related post on this blog:  My Day With Tiger Woods and Benny Hinn

Best place to follow this story (if you must):  The other “Benny;” the blog, Bene Diction Blogs On

Picture:  National Enquirer article.  Who else?

July 25, 2010

Checking The Vital Signs

Prayer is the source of the Christian life, a Christian’s lifeline.  Otherwise it’s like having a baby in our arms and dressing her up so cute — but she’s not breathing.  Never mind the frilly clothes, check the child’s vital signs.   It does no good to talk to someone in a comatose state.   That’s why the great emphasis on teaching in today’s churches is producing such limited results.   Teaching is good only where there’s life to be channeled.   If the listeners are in a spiritual coma, what we’re telling them may be fine and orthodox, but unfortunately spiritual life cannot be taught.

Jim Cymbala in Fresh Wind Fresh Fire (page 50); Zondervan, 1997

July 24, 2010

Meeting the Conditions

We’ve just come back from a few days away, and as I have nothing scheduled for today here at Thinking Out Loud, I’m going to borrow this one, which ran last night at Christianity 201 under the title, “Conditional Promises.”

If I’m not getting the desires of my heart,

Maybe I’m not delighting myself in the Lord


If I’m not finding my paths being made straight,

Maybe I’m not trusting in the Lord with all my heart.


If I’m not finding God is adding good things to my life,

Maybe I’m not seeking first His Kingdom.


If it doesn’t seem like God is working in all things for His glory,

Maybe I’m not loving God or trying to live according to His purpose.


If it doesn’t feel like God is hearing from heaven, healing the land and forgiving sin,

Maybe it’s because as His people, we’re not humbling ourselves, seeking his face and turning from our wicked ways.


If it doesn’t seem like God is lifting me up,

Maybe I’m not humbling myself in His sight.

July 23, 2010

Can’t Buy Me Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:44 am

I don’t care too much for money,

Money can’t buy me love

~The Beatles

We spent the last few days looking at the St. Lawrence River from the opposite to our usual side. The place we’re staying in Alexandria Bay, NY overlooks Heart Island, home to Boldt Castle.

Construction on the vast structure was halted when the owner’s wife died unexpectedly. His heart was broken and the castle was never finished.

Living in Toronto, we couldn’t help think of Casa Loma, built again as a man’s gift of love to his wife, and never completed. What’s that saying in the Bible about counting the cost before you build?

Anyway, yesterday we were on a luncheon cruise on the river – it sounds posh but it wasn’t, the chicken was inedible – and learned of a third man who set out to build the perfect summer home on an island for his wife. He gave her a choice of any of the 1,800 islands in the Thousand Islands and she didn’t like any of them, so he built her an island, too.

In the end, she left him.

The marina outside our window is full of yachts and powerboats that are also momuments to vast amount of personal wealth that exists in the United States. But pause and listen to conversations and the people who own them are not happy. Their lives seem filled with tension and angst.

Yesterday, one woman suddenly took off in her SUV, and her husband walked out of their cottage surprised to see her gone. He got on his cell to her and whatever discussion precipitated their argument continued phone to phone.

People like us often look at the boats and the cabins and the “good life” at a distance and forget the fundamental happiness and underlying joy just aren’t in the picture for these people.

And so I end this with words normally spoken in the “fellowship time” in many of our churches…

…The peace of Christ be with you.

July 22, 2010

Calling Apostles (and Everyone Else)

No matter what the people who print calendars tell you, the school year cycle determines when the start of the “new year” is in most churches.

Nothing lasting happens in your local church without (a) vision, (b) prayer and (c) planning.    Vision begins with people who are ‘initiators’ that is, people who feel God is sending them into the middle of a situation or area to give birth to something that will either (a) serve those with needs, or (b) proclaim Christ;  to provide opportunities to be salt and light at particular place and time or for their particular generation.

At a very low point in my life about ten years ago I asked God, “If my health improves and I am able to take on something, what do You want me to do for Your kingdom?”

The answer came in the middle of a worship service as clear as what you’re reading right now:  “You need to be doing more.”

More?   More what?

I wasn’t sure.

Some day, I’ll finish that story on this blog.  It wasn’t the answer I expected.  I was looking for a fresh vision.   Instead, I was led to expand on a vision already in progress.

Let me say here that there is nothing you can “do” for God.   He is concerned with what you can “be” for Him.   But I know a lot of people are working on that “being” to the extent that nothing happens about “doing.”   Sometimes by “doing” God shapes our “being.”   With the exception of a handful of people who have some major stuff they need to work out, you can’t wait until you are perfect.   That day will just keep slipping further and further into the future.

As the fall season approaches in your local church (or some local parachurch organization) you have a choice:  You can maintain the status quo in your life, or you can choose to be a little apostolic; you can be a person who makes things happens.

What will your role be as another season of ministry commences in a few weeks?

You need to be doing more.

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